Long before we had kids, my wife and I were on a trip to the mall. (After you have kids, time with just the two of you is far too precious to spend at such a soulless place.) We were visiting one of the many women’s clothing chains and she was looking to find a top to match a skirt she had bought in that store the year before. Or maybe another store just like it; I really couldn’t tell the difference. A saleswoman asked if she could help us, and my wife described the skirt she was looking to match. The helpful saleswoman didn’t try too hard to hide her condescension as she said, “Oh, from last year.”
Um, yeah. From last year.
We don’t like last year so much. A mobile provider commercial that has aired over and over during the football season makes it clear that we should even be disgusted with 30 seconds ago.
In the first week of a new year, certainly the thing to do is to look ahead. To talk about resolutions. Or to talk about how resolutions aren’t good, but goals are better. Or to talk about how goals aren’t good, but habits are the best. I think they all have some merit, but they are all about looking ahead. About moving on.
Quit reading if you like, but I want to talk about last year. The one that is so five days ago.
In the infancy of 2012, our best opportunities for growth don’t come in looking ahead to who we want to be in the year to come. Our best opportunities for growth come in reflecting on the year past and seeing who we actually were. And are.
Yes, we make our end of the year lists in December. Some of the more intentional among us set aside time amidst the hustle of the holidays to reflect on the year as it’s closing out. But even for those more intentional than me, the year is worthy of more reflection than we can offer it in the midst of boarding passes and eggnog.
There is a centuries old spiritual practice called the examen which serves as a reflection to close out each day. There are many variations, but the most common form of the examen is a set of questions about the day to be pondered and prayed through. It is an invitation to self awareness and an RSVP to a more meaningful tomorrow.
My best creative work, and I think I’m not alone in this, comes when I am most aware and present to myself. And if the examen is an invitation to self awareness, then surely it is a means to engage my creative nature. And yours too.
So far, in 2012, I’ve been more interested in 2011. You know, last year. In our spiritual community, we introduced some questions for year end reflection as 2011 was winding down, questions we will return to in the coming weeks. It is an annual examen of sorts. So below you will find some of the questions we are asking together. I know we are already over 100 hours into 2012, but 2011 is still worth at least a few more hours of your time.
- What have been the high points of this year?
- What have been the difficult times of this year?
- How have you grown this year?
- In what ways have you not grown this year? Or even gone backward?
- Where have you seen God at work this year?
- If you project this past year forward, who will you be in five years?
- Who do you want to be in five years?